Elisabeth Rasmusson, who has headed the Norwegian Refugee Council (Flyktninghjelpen) for the past five years, will be taking on a new, even more international job next month. Now she’ll help head the United Nations World Food Programme, which is based in Rome.
Rasmusson, age 58, has been involved in humanitarian aid for the past 20 years and will be taking on the post of assistant executive director of the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger. The World Food Programme is part of the UN system but is voluntarily funded. For Norway, Rasmusson’s appointment places a Norwegian in a top UN post following concerns that Norwegians are underrepresented at the international body.
“This is a good day for the humanitarian community and a sad day for the NRC,” said Norwegian Refugee Council chairman Idar Kreutzer when Rasmusson’s appointment was announced last week. He claimed the World Food Programme was getting an “energetic and visionary assistant executive director” but that her departure was a “loss” for the refugee council, which ranks as Norway’s largest humanitarian non-governmental organization.
She’s been responsible for the council’s activities in 22 countries, where more than 3,000 staff members work to protect and assist displaced people. She started her career with the council as program coordinator for Latin America and also has worked as a field coodinator for the UN in Angloa, for the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the NRC in Georgia.
Rasmusson has regularly gone on field missions to refugee camps in some of the world’s most troubled spots since taking over as its secretary general in January 2008. She also is a board member of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, headed by former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, and was awarded the Order of the French Legion of Honour last year for “her tireless efforts to promote the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.”
Toril Brekke, director of the refugee council’s internal programme department, will take over as acting secretary general until Rasmusson’s replacement is named later this spring.